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Film Review: Insectula! (2015)

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SYNOPSIS:

A giant alien mosquito-type insect is drawn to earth from the CO2 pollution in search of blood. Del, a government agent, loses loved ones to the creature and is on a personal vendetta while the evil Dr. Kempler is captivated by it and attempts to help the creature cleanse the earth.

REVIEW:

In the tradition of 50’s era giant bug movies like Them! (1954), Tarantula (1955) and Beginning Of The End (1957) comes Insectula! a lovingly crafted, if a bit misguided micro budgetded film looking to feed on the blood of everyone who sits down to watch it! Opening with a Criswell clone intoning some nonsense about things from another planet fighting back (“Things like…INSECTULA!“), writer/director Michael Peterson then takes the audience to another planet, a planet where there are copious amounts of giant beasties lumbering to & fro. For some odd reason (if it was pointed out – I missed it), one of the creatures takes off for a distant planet in search of blood. That planet, of course, is earth. And that creature just happens to be Insectula! It starts out as a sort of embryonic octopus/insect hybrid, but after he lands in a serene sylvan lake and feasts upon his first victim – all bets are off as it grows into a gigantic pain in the ass for everyone who runs into it.

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We’re then introduced to local gigolo/private investigator Del (Pasquale Pilla), who’s plenty upset because the first victim of the creature just happened to be his comely girlfriend, and now he’s seeking revenge. We’re also introduced to Dr. Kemplar (Harrison Matthews), who also has designs on the creature, but not to destroy it. Indeed, he has a theory about the earth being overpopulated and believes that letting Inscetula feast on a couple of billion people might not be such a bad thing. The great thing about the casting of the two leads is that both of them are portly, middle aged men, not the young hunks that you’d expect to find in a film like this. The fact that Del can score with a gaggle of young ladies is something that the film doesn’t make a big fuss over. Del just has it like that – the dude is a stud. The both of them are also a bit on the milquetoast side, which is a nice touch, but both of them step up towards the end of the film.

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The rest of the plot is so zany that I can’t really give it a proper description here. Trust me when I say that I couldn’t do it justice in a paragraph or two. But I will say that while the script is a pretty funny one, Peterson makes the mistake of having the jokes run way too long. Insectula! runs approximately 101 minutes, and that’s at least 15 minutes too long for this kind of film. It nearly wears out its welcome after the first hour, and crosses the finish line completely out of gas. But what Peterson has going for him is a cast that’s game for anything, and some absolutely spectacular low budget CGI effects that give the film the feel of something that Ray Harryhausen might’ve worked on 40 years ago.

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The film was made over a four year time span, with Peterson acting as writer/director/camera operator & special effects guru. His wife (Danielle Cezanne) produced the film, and his daughter (Arielle Cezanne) plays the female lead. Pilla is a personal friend of Peterson’s and the rest of the cast is comprised of local talent (the film was made in Minnesota). While none of the actors are gonna make you think they’re the next Nicholson or Streep, all of them are obviously having a ball and do their best to make their characters as engaging as possible – no matter how long they’re onscreen for.

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Insectula! also features a nice amount of gore (an early autopsy scene is especially gruesome), which is something I don’t see too much in giant monster films at all. As a matter of fact, it fairly revels in the red stuff, and what’s even more amazing – it all looks pretty damned good. Where the film succeeds is in its slavish attention to detail and EFX work, it really goes the extra mile to make its creatures and the carnage they create as believable looking as something like this can possibly be. It certainly looks like it cost a lot more than it actually did.

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But Peterson makes the near fatal error of letting it all go on for far too long. The multiple nods he tosses in to the films of Ed Wood, The Twilight Zone and other 50’s era creature features start to become stale after awhile, but they keep coming. It doesn’t kill the movie completely, but it did get tiring after awhile. As I said earlier, Insectula! could lose 15-20 minutes easily and be twice as entertaining. But as it stands, it still warrants watching for some of the outstanding visual effects work and the earnestness of the cast. I had a good time watching Insectula!, and if you’re a fan of this kind of thing (& don’t mind a running time that’s way too long), then you’ll enjoy it as well.

Insectula! – 3 out of 5 shrouds.

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